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Dynamics beyond the sidelines

More Than a Game
December, 18, 2002
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Feature Writer


Students on mission to elevate ECU hoops
Minges Maniacs proving to be formidable Sixth Man

Minges Maniacs gave Louisville coach Rick Pitino the 'treatment' during East Carolina's upset win
over the Cardinals in a hyperactive Williams Arena last January. (Photo: ECU Media Relations)


Basketball is king in the state of North Carolina. That is an undisputed fact. For a football school like East Carolina with a student population predominantly comprised of sons and daughters of the state of North Carolina, it has long been a point of frustration that many students switch loyalties as soon as football season ends.

It’s an unfortunate reality that across the ECU campus, come basketball season, plenty of UNC, N.C. State, Duke, and Wake Forest sweatshirts appear and the hoops buzz is seldom about East Carolina.

Come to think of it, it’s understandable that along famed Tobacco Road, students are indoctrinated to basketball of the Carolina and Duke variety.

So, it was not surprising that despite last season’s inaugural run in Conference USA and wins against the likes of Louisville and then-No. 9 Marquette, the student body has been cool to warming up to ECU basketball.

Old habits are hard to break — but it's not impossible.

The co-founders of the official Minges Maniacs organization, Jonathan Medford and Scott Phillips, are on a mission to prove these aren’t your parents’ Pirates anymore.

“Everyone grows up watching the ACC,” Medford said. “ECU fans know how to be basketball fans. When everyone comes together, it is going to be crazy.”

Medford’s sentiments run much deeper than wishful thinking. In fact, his love for basketball and for his university, prompted him and others like him to organize and energize ECU's most important fans. It has not been overnight, but Medford and Phillips represent a group of students who have taken it upon themselves to not only promote the ECU basketball team, but also to orchestrate that support into an effective sixth man within the confines of cozy Minges.

These Pirate fans are all on the same page (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

“Basically, I met (Scott) on the ECU-ESPN message board and we kind of talked about the Minges Maniacs,” Medford recalled. “The Maniacs had been around and the phrase was already coined, but we talked about starting something like they have over at Duke, here at ECU. We thought we could get students out. With Conference USA, the time seemed to be right for it.”

Phillips, admittedly, was a little surprised.

“There were really only about five or six of us posting on that board and one day, I left a message for ‘Fellow Minges Maniacs…,’” Phillips said. “Then Jonathan got back to me and talked about forming a student organization. At the time, I didn’t know what to think, but I knew he was very serious about it and then I got serious about it, too. We got together and met up in the Ward building and started writing down ideas.”

The two juniors made it happen.

“Scott and I brainstormed and decided to start the website (,” Medford said. “But we wanted it to be more than just a website, we wanted it to be official.”

To that end, Medford registered the group officially with the Student Government Association (SGA) and solicited an adviser (Craig Curtis) from ECU Marketing.

“We met with Craig and Lee Workman to ensure that we were all on the same page, since ECU Athletics Marketing and Minges Maniacs have the same goal in mind — which is to get fans in the stands,” Medford said. “We thought that we could set a budget through them for merchandise. We work together and definitely agree (to purpose).”

The official Minges Maniacs were on their way. The group came up with a constitution, a system of membership, benefits for membership, and associated membership costs. Doing things the right way was a much bigger endeavor than Medford originally thought.

“It was a huge process to organize,” Medford said. “We are just now starting to be well organized and getting our message out and growing membership.”

While Medford networked, Phillips came up with ideas and plans of how to implement them.

Minges Maniacs (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

“Right now, what I’ve been doing is brainstorming and working on the website,” Phillips said. “Jonathan has done all of the networking.”

With a current membership of 300 and growing, the Minges Maniacs are a far cry from their original existence.

“Our freshmen year, there were about six to 10 of us that would go to every game,” Medford said. “We would get behind the bench and start chanting, heckling the refs… back when there were probably only 200 students even at the games. But then last year, we joined Conference USA. (Growth) was slow at first until the Cincinnati game. The Cincinnati game, I think, was a turning point.”

In just one year, Minges has gone from an oversized gym with more empty seats then filled to one of the toughest facilities to visit in C-USA, if not the country.

Just take a look at what some of the coaches and players from around the league are saying after last season’s first round of games at Minges:

“My condolences go out to the teams that have not been there yet. Until you’ve been there, you can’t understand how great a home-court advantage they have, there’s no doubt about it. Their fans are excellent and, obviously by design, the students are right there behind your bench, so you’re going to hear from them all night. It’s a tough arena to play in.”

          Marquette Coach Tom Crean

Louisville coach Rick Pitino learned last January how raucous and rowdy the Minges Maniacs can be. Here, Pitino is hit with a technical foul during the Cards' first-ever visit to Williams Arena. East Carolina shocked the Cardinals 87-77 for its first-ever Conference USA basketball victory. (Photo: Associated Press)

“I didn’t miss not going to Greenville, quite honestly. As much as I like (Bill) Herrion and everything, I didn’t miss playing in that place. And it’s not what I’ve heard, it’s what I’ve seen. His team plays its tail off and they have developed a sixth-man mentality.”

         South Florida Coach Seth Greenberg

“Any time you get a packed college gym with a great student body, you’re going to have a very strong home-court advantage. I just thought it was a fun, tremendous college basketball environment.”

         Louisville Coach Rick Pitino

“The fans were loud and they were good, like our fans. When you win there, you know you’ve accomplished something.”

         Charlotte Coach Bobby Lutz

“(Minges) is a tough place to play, with the fans right there in your ear. It’s a place that you really don’t look forward to, but then again, you also look forward to it because you want to prove that you can go on the road and win in an environment like that.”

         C-USA Preseason Player-of-the-Year Dwayne Wade of Marquette

To hear comments like these not only validates the Maniacs’ cause, but it also brings extreme satisfaction to Medford.

“To hear coach Pitino say that…,” Medford pondered. “When you hear a coach say something like what he said, it is extremely satisfying.”

Minges has become so well known for its basketball environment, that it is usually one of the prominent themes in any discussion about the hardcourt Pirates. To Medford, the atmosphere goes hand in hand with ECU coach Bill Herrion, who has not only embraced the Maniacs, but also has reached out to his sixth-man.

“I used to work in the basketball office before starting (MingesManiacs),” Medford said. “Moussa (Badiane), (Erroyl) Bing, Devin (Boddie)… all of the guys just love what we are doing. And Coach Herrion will do anything to promote ECU athletics. He is so hardnosed. He even served lunch at Todd Dining Hall just to get out and meet the students. He’ll go to the dorms to talk to students… he really will take five minutes to get to know you, no matter who you are.”

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Medford likes to point to a story that Bill Herrion told him and his Maniacs at a recent meeting with the Student Pirate Club.

“Coach said he was sitting next to coach (Bobby) Huggins at a game once and asked him about the rivalry between Cincinnati and Louisville,” Medford recounted. “He said that Huggins told him that the two toughest places he’s played were at Charlotte and ECU. I think it is because we all grow up knowing how to be good basketball fans.”

It is that last part for Medford that has him so committed. He is convinced that at ECU, it is a matter of innately knowledgeable college hoop fans, finding loyalty with their own team.

“The Buzz is not there yet for our team,” Medford said. “I run into people on campus and they ask me, ‘Are we any good?’ They don’t seem sure even though we’ve beaten Louisville and Marquette,” Medford said. “I tell them to come out to the games because we’re going to beat a lot of teams at home.”

For now, Medford says that there is essentially a core of about 50 of the membership who religiously show up an hour early for the games to ensure their customary seats behind the benches. It’s a great start.

“We’re the hardcore ones,” Medford said. “We do the chants, the heckling. I think it will grow. We don’t have a really unified student body… yet. By the end of the season, we will. We want to get the people on the other side of the court and the endzones, the whole place going crazy for the Pirates.”

The hardcore group has been very effective already this season, helping light the fire that led to huge out of conference wins over unsuspecting visitors Ole Miss of the SEC and Virginia Tech of the Big East.

“That crowd at the Virginia Tech game made us feel great,” Phillips said. “We looked over at the other side of the court and, well, they were all being kind of lazy over there, so five or six of us went over and stood in the stands opposite of the press row. We knew that if anyone was going to get in the seats behind us, they were going to have to stand. Everyone started to get involved about the middle of the game and by the end of the game, it was going crazy. That kind of makes you feel good.”

And their zest is not limited to the confines of Minges.

“We hit the road,” Phillips said. “We figured, ECU has a great tradition for traveling in football, so why not in basketball. We had about nine or 10 of us who went up to Old Dominion and after the game, Coach Herrion said that (the fans who traveled) played a role in the team winning. It was funny because the ODU fans there were too busy heckling us to even watch their team play.”

It may be some time before the road Maniacs become a huge force, but for now the successes at home are rewarding for the two.

Though Phillips and Medford were excited, it didn’t surprise them that the fans would come along.

“We knew that Minges is a special place because it allows students to sit in the lower level,” Phillips said.  “I think that ESPN2 game (for this year) with Louisville is when the rest of the nation will have its eyes opened to another home court that is only paralleled by schools like Duke, Michigan State, Arizona and teams like that.

“We all are starting to really know what it feels like for real to be the 6th man. To give your team a real edge.”

For Medford, when he looks around at the results on the court and the impact his organization is having, he knows how important it is that the Maniacs be a viable force well beyond his days at ECU.

“I’m going to see to it that Minges Maniacs are here 20 years from now,” Medford said. “I should probably put as much time as I do into the Maniacs into my school work… I love it.”

The Maniacs are always focused on getting ready for the next Minges victim on the schedule and aim to help put the Pirates on the NCAA hoops map. So far, so good… and Medford and his organization can continue to hope for the dream.

“I was just reading an article about the New Bern (high) basketball team,” Medford said. “The school wanted to make their gym a more intimidating place to play and the person in the story mentioned that they wanted to be like the Cameron Crazies and the Minges Maniacs… That was great to be used in the same sentence. Yes… that is what we want.”

Phillips feels similar.

“We really want people to appreciate what is going on,” Phillips said. “Coach Herrion is kind of contagious and we all share his dream of a regularly full Minges. We’re hoping that we can keep getting the word out and keep this organization going. We want the average fan to know when the games are and how they get involved. I really won’t mind when (there comes a day) I can’t get a ticket for a Pirates game. That means (what they are doing) is working.”

Rest assured Minges Maniacs… we hear you and it is working.


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02/23/2007 02:05:50 PM

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